Over the weekend Riot set quite a few E-sports records with its Season One Dreamhack qualifiers, the most notable of which is likely the 60,000+ viewers that tuned in for the qualifying matches. It was a clear marker of the popularity of E-sports in North America, not to mention League of Legends as a game.
There was an ugly side to the proceedings as well. The whole tournament started under the drama umbrella that is Couter Logic Gaming and Team SoloMid. If ever you needed evidence of the age demographic of competitive gamers, just read a few threads between these two teams and their supporters. It won’t be interesting, I promise. It will be full of petty insults and the kind of high-school-grade trash you’re probably reading so often in the Tribunal.
I think I was fortunate to hit my competitive gaming peak before any of these big tournaments got popular. The Halo 1 competitive scene was remarkably friendly, and I spent loads of time on message boards working out reload mechanics and powerup spawn times with the same guys I was playing against. We were all in love with the game and, frankly, stakes were pretty low. I was never up for $100,000. I think the biggest prize package I was ever competing for was a flat CRT TV (yeah, that’s right – like a bulky TV with a flat screen), a new Xbox, and a copy of Halo. Sure, it was nice, but it wasn’t going to make my life dramatically different (and I was playing against the Ogres, so…).
As the competitive scene gains ground, the prizes have ratcheted up, which seems to somehow inversely proportional to player attitudes. Jon Tran at Top Tier Tactics put together an awesome piece about the effect player attitudes is having not only on competitive gaming but on the form’s mainstream acceptance. It is absolutely worth the read, but the basic gist is this: competitive gaming has a mainstream ceiling until players can learn to respect one another.
If you want proof, consider Grackis. He is one of the most infamous LoL players, mostly for his insane fits of rage, but also for his skill. He was recently asked to commentate a competitive match at NESL and the LoL community went batty with indignation. If the very community playing the game doesn’t want this guy casting because of his bad behavior, do you think the gaming community at large wants to hear him rage?
Of course not. In fact, I’m willing to bet the only reason people pay attention to any of the high tier players is because of the desire to be those players. They are the masters of the craft, so people are willing to take a little abuse if it means learning at the feet of people like HotshotGG. Unfortunately, exposure to the kind of “lol ur bad, kid” has infected most competitive gaming communities to the point that they’re nearly unbearable to be a part of. Review a few Tribunal cases and you’ll know what I mean.
I’m hoping things improve, but as long as we continue to offer up celebrity status to players with an attitude, I think it will be quite some time before there’s a shift in tone.